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History of the Department

Riggs Hall, circa 1928

Riggs Hall, circa 1928

Proud Tradition.

Formed in 1933, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department is one of the oldest engineering departments at Clemson University. The department was first located in Riggs Hall, built in 1928 to house the Engineering Department and named after Walter Merritt Riggs, president of the university from 1910 to 1924 and a professor of engineering.

Riggs Hall and the Flour Daniel Engineering Innovation building are now home to state of the art laboratories where our faculty and staff perform diverse and challenging research projects.

Department Milestones

  • Over half of Clemson’s first graduating class in 1896 received degrees in mechanical‐electrical engineering.
  • In 1898, Electrical Engineering became an optional concentration within the Mechanical Engineering degree program.
  • The Mechanical Department was redesignated the Engineering Department in March of 1909, and Dr. Walter Meritt Riggs was named as director. The department was to provide instruction in mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering, physics, shop work, and drawing.
  • The Electrical Engineering degree program was introduced in 1917, and in 1921, the electrical division separated from mechanical.
  • In 1928, the Engineering Department moved into the newly constructed Riggs Hall, named for Walter Merritt Riggs, who died in 1924.
  • The Engineering Department became known as the School of Engineering in 1932, and the Electrical Engineering Division became known as the Electrical Engineering Department.
  • The Depression years brought new variety to the electrical engineering curriculum as interest in radio spurred the development of a course in electronics that included work with vacuum tubes and photoelectric cells. By 1934, a concentration in radio was offered to students studying electrical engineering. Courses in power station equipment and power transmission and distribution were also added.
  • Clemson’s engineering programs, including electrical engineering, were first accredited by the Engineers Council for Professional Development in 1936.
  • Electrical engineering was first offered as a graduate degree program at Clemson in 1948.
  • In 1967, Lee Miller earned the first doctoral degree in electrical engineering at Clemson.
  • The first woman to graduate with a MS in electrical and computer engineering, Silvia Gilbert Middleton, received her M.S. degree in 1976. She was also the first female to earn a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Clemson.
  • The first McQueen Quattlebaum Engineering Faculty Achievement Award went in 1977 to Professor John N. Gowdy of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department in recognition of his work in teaching, research, and public service.
  • A technical communications program at Clemson was first organized in the early 1980s by Electrical and Computer Engineering professor A. Wayne Bennett.
  • In 1987, Milton W. Holcombe, a 1953 graduate in electrical engineering, and his wife, Betty Holcombe, gave $1 million to fund the first endowed chair in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.
  • In 1995, construction was completed on the Fluor Daniel Engineering Innovation Building, which now houses over 29,000 square feet of electrical and computer engineering research space and laboratories.
  • In June 2000, the department was renamed the Milton W. Holcombe Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, following a $4 million endowment from Milton W. and Betty Holcombe.
Quick Facts
  • Tenured/Tenure-track Faculty: 33
  • Enrollment: (Spring 2020)
    Undergraduate: 540
    Master's: 70
    Doctoral: 95
  • Research Expenditures: $8.6 Million (2018 FY)
  • Research thrusts: optoelectronics, cyberinfrastructure, wireless communications, computer networks, nanoelectronic materials processing, biochips, semiconductor lasers, optical systems, integrated circuit design, high-performance computing, computer security, robotics, image processing, biological modeling, situation and threat assessment, power systems